Sofia, June 4, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgaria and Serbia have undertaken to work faster on building gas interconnectors, Bulgaria’s Economy Ministry said at the close of the second session of the bilateral joint economic commission that met in Belgrade on June 2 and 3.
The co-chairpersons of of the commission – Bulgarian Economy Bozhidar Lukarski and Serbian Minister of Mining and Energy Aleksandar Antić signed a protocol on co-operation in seven economic spheres of priority, the Economy Ministry said.
The main points achieved during the session were to accelerate work on European Transport Corridor 10, which includes the construction of a speed road connection and the electrification and the modernisation of the Niš – Sofia railway line.
The counties also undertook an obligation to speed work on building up of the interconnecting gas connection, according to the Economy Ministry.
A protocol on co-operation on energy will be prepared for signing with a view to it being signed as soon as possible, the ministry said.
“Financing of our part under Operational Programme ‘Innovations and Competitiveness’ 2014 – 2020 was provided for the interconnector and the design and the expropriation were performed so that we are ready to commence the construction,” Lukarski said.
Both ministers emphasised how important the gas connection was for the diversification of the supplies.
Promotion of the investments and the creation of Serbian-Bulgarian joint ventures between the two countries is to be a priority in economic relations between the two countries, to do business in markets where Serbia has duty-free trade agreements, such as Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey.
A memorandum will be signed for the encouragement of the investments between the Serbian Investment Agency, InvestBulgaria Agency (IBA) and the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency (BSMEPA).
On tourism, a joint product “The Road of Roman Emperors” was agreed, the Economy Ministry said. A memorandum on co-operation shall be concluded as soon as possible.
Serbia noted that the number of Bulgarian tourists visiting Serbia had increased by 80 per cent during the first quarter of 2015 on an annual basis. In Q1 2014, Bulgarians were in top spot among tourists visiting Serbia.
Co-operation was agreed in the sphere of agriculture as well as participation in common projects for cross-border cooperation at the value of 28 million euro, the Economy Ministry said.
Lukarski and Antić opened in Belgrade a Bulgarian-Serbian business forum on June 3. More than 80 Bulgarian and Serbian companies participated.
Lukarski told the forum that regional co-operation constitutes an integral part of the stability on the Western Balkans.
He said that Bulgaria supports partnership with Serbia in all areas, adding that there is unused potential in mutual trade.
Bulgarian exports consists predominantly of raw materials and materials.
“Serbia is a big commercial partner of our country,” Lukarski said. Bulgarian investments in Serbia add up to 140 million euro.
He said that the private sector in the two countries should make use of advantages such as geographic nearness, low transportation expenditures and similar languages.
Antić said that the completion of Corridor number 10 will be accelerated in the next few years aimed at establishing fast connection between Bulgaria and Serbia.
“There is already a direct airline which allows fast and efficient communication. We are preparing the modernisation of the railway junction at Dimitrovgrad. The gas connection will provide for diversification and energy security,” Antić said.